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Blood, Tigers, Dragons: The Physiology of Transcendence for Women

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This article sets out to compare visions of the female body and its processes found in Chinese medicine and in a Daoist tradition called nüdan, or female alchemy. This tradition, developed fully in the late Ming and Qing periods, describes the female body in ways very similar to those of Chinese medicine. However, despite the fact that loci, fluids and processes are described in a similar manner in the two textual traditions, the goals to reach are strikingly different. In the case of medicine, the goal is health, well-being, regularity, and the production of children, while in the case of female alchemy, the main goal is transcendence, achieved through the reversal of natural female processes like menstruation, gestation and childbirth.


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